Florida Keys

Art In The Florida Keys

We’re All Here Because We’re Not All There.”Anonymous”

Art. in The Keys, is a three-letter word packed with meaning.  You can always spot an “Artist” on the Island by the way they dress. They dress like their bodies are works of art.  They try to look exotic, which occasionally translates into jolting.

The best local artist that I know dress in a very exacting fashion.  Somewhere in Richie’s background, he was in the military. His clothing is always neat, pressed, and coordinated. The only caveat to this tidy appearance is his long hair.  He wears it in a ponytail, the front neatly trimmed.  You wouldn’t know he has long hair until he turns around.  He irons all of his clothes. I know this because I dropped by unexpectedly one day and he was busily at it. His home is created with blended cast-offs. Salvation Army purchases. He has a planter made of a ladder.   His home is an apartment, located on the second floor. Surrounded by Gumbo Limbo trees with huge windows, it’s like sitting in a treehouse. I have eaten many meals there. Casual or formal, food is always displayed beautifully.  Gracefully plated, everything matching with centerpieces made of any type of items or objects.  He can cook or bake anything.  As I sat, sipping his personal concoction of Sun Tea with herbs from his garden, I suddenly think “Oh you would make such a wonderful wife.”  I would never express this though, as it would be a massive insult to his macho masculinity.  He is not gay.  We have had many conversations about the loves of his life, current and past, and his former wife and children.  I do love him, but not like that.

Being an artist of some local renowned, Richie is often invited to join panels of judges on local artistic competitions. “Come with me.” was his smiling invitation when he was elected to a jury at a local student competition. I dressed weirdly and exotically for this, twirling in front of him asking if I looked OK. He winked telling me “lovely”. “Oh, goodie”. I thought ”I’ll fit right in and get a free lunch to boot!”.  “I know you just came for the food” Richie teased as he took my arm to guide me in through an entrance decked with tropical flowers.  True, he knows me well.  The greeter gushed “Oh Richie, you’re here, and you’ve brought a date. How wonderful!” “We’re not dating.” I responded, “I’m just “Riding Shotgun” so to speak. “I have attended many such events in New York and I am excited to be included here.” I said by way of introduction.  The greeter looked noticeably impressed. “Oh, you and your white lies” Richie murmured as we headed in.  “I did that for you!” “Do you want it all over town by the “Coconut Telegraph” that we’re dating?” I blurt. His response was “Good luck with that New York thing – I’m sure you’ll get additional questions about it.”.

From 1st to 6th grade there were contributors from every class.  The school intended to elect two from each grade group to create a calendar and make a charitable donation with the funds earned.  Like all the Judges I looked at each picture.  They were a mixed combination of colorful, ugly, cute, questionable, scary, sweet, startling….  The judges conferred, as I discretely chased waitstaff for hors d’oeuvres and wine; all the while making small talk.  I was questioned about my New York event attendance. Gently I steered the conversation to Christo and his display of “The Gates” in Central Park, to cover my fib.  I am a huge Cristo fan.

After the festivities, I demanded to know why Richie chose a certain piece from a 5th Grader. I thought it was silly and certainly would not want to look at it for an entire month on a calander.   He turned to me and said, “Define art.” “Well ……… l think it starts with a feeling inside you.  Maybe from something you see or hear or read. I think the feeling drives the person to want to express it – with anything paint, craft materials, music, words.  Maybe what you’ve expressed will make the person seeing it think too.   I believe you can’t judge it because it’s too personal and it can’t be named right or wrong.  I think you can only hope to completely express yourself and that maybe someone else will just enjoy or perhaps even like, understand what you have done.  But I also think it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t.

“You’re getting there,” Richie responded. “And by the way, I did not choose that 5th Grader’s piece.”

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